HELSTAR – 30 YEARS OF HEL

Released 3rd September 2012 on AFM Records

It’s only taken Helstar 30 years to get around to their first officially sanctioned live album. Even taking into account a hiatus in the 90s, that’s a long time.

Helstar is basically defined by James Rivera’s voice. James has been very much in demand, offering his characteristic voice (and off pitch squeals) to a variety of bands. Nowhere does he sound at home like he does in his own band though.

Helstar has always stood for solid American heavy metal. There’s the usual Priest and Maiden influences but Helstar have always managed to put their own stamp on their sound.  The material sounds quite live and undoctored. There’s the odd bum note or sloppy break to further prove we’re not just listening to the studio versions with added applause.

The song selection covers all of Helstar’s discography. If you’re still craving more metal after this 2CD/DVD live set, you can rightfully claim to be a metalhead.

The band is tight, the setlist is as varied as one can expect and production is raw and in your face. Add the DVD and this becomes a very tempting package for both fans and people curious about Helstar.

Rating – 84%
Review by Sancho

IRON SAVIOR – THE LANDING

Released 18th November 2011 on AFM Records

Sixth album from German metal outfit Iron Savior who show no signs of let up in their approach some four years on from their last offering ‘Megatropolis’.

Big riffs collide with chanty anthemic choruses with nary a let in pace throughout.  Vocalist Piet Sielck may well sound like the love child of Chris DeBurgh and Blackie Lawless but oddly it works over the enjoyable music, blaring out the speakers with military precision.

The aforementioned Sielck also forms a formidable guitar duo with Joachim “Piesel” Küstner who work up quite a sweat throughout but particularly on the likes of “The Saviour”, “March Of Doom” and “Faster Than All” with their fast tempos.

More mid-tempo waters are visited on the Accept like timbres of “Heavy Metal Never Dies” (you can envisage the front row head banging in unison here) whilst “Hall Of The Heroes” has an early Queensryche appeal to it and is arguably the highlight.  “R.U. Ready” could be seen as a little naff in the lyrics department telling the story of heavy metal (proving that bands do indeed still sing about this sort of thing!) but its infectious riff will draw you in.

The album slows for one power ballad “Before The Pain” which is rather forgettable before “No Guts No Glory” sees the album out in stronger style.

Clocking in at 47 minutes “The Landing” certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome and is an enjoyable slice of honest rocking metal and comes recommended for further investigation.

Rating – 84%

EDEN’S CURSE – TRINITY

Out now on AFM Records

“Trinity” marks the third strike from melodic metallers Eden’s Curse who to be honest are an outfit I’ve always had a hard time getting into.  Granted they have never delivered a stinker but on the flipside never really produced anything above average to these ears.  So it was with a little trepidation I approached “Trinity”.  Fortunately this is easily the best work to date from the band.

Aided by a strong production from Dennis Ward (who rarely fails to deliver the sonic goods), “Trinity” is a general cruise through enjoyable tracks with a keen sense of melody and upbeat delivery.

Vocalist Michael Eden will always be an acquired taste and his voice again doesn’t blow me away with its shaky pitch and lack of depth in vibrato; but he can pen a decent hook as exemplified on the standout cuts such as the title track, “No Holy Man” (with guest James LaBrie), the storming euro metal of “Dare To Be Different” and the darker Savatage feel of “Jerusalem Sleep”.

A tribute to Ronnie James Dio is served up with a cover of “Rock n Roll Children” where it would be unfair to compare vocals between original and cover, yet its a nice addition to the package.

Overall an agreeable release and recommended for fans of melodic metal.  Lets hope we get more like this on album #4.

Rating – 80%

AN INTERVIEW WITH ALEX BEYRODT OF VOODOO CIRCLE

Voodoo Circle are the stunning hard rock band from guitarist Alex Beyrodt (Silent Force).  The band are just about to release their fantastic second album ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’ on AFM Records and we caught up with the bands mainman to discuss the making of the new release, his gear preferences and the outlook on Silent Force.

Alex, many thanks for speaking to us again.The second Voodoo Circle album ‘Broken Heart Syndrome’ is about to see release. We gave it a glowing recommendation, how has it been going down elsewhere?
So far I received almost only very good reviews. Only one or two silly ones…with comments like “the band tries to impress with Spanish guitars and ZZ Top riffs”….I will never understand some of those Internet mags and self proclaimed “Journalists”…sorry!  I’m even more thankful for mags like yours, were people have knowledge!

When did writing for the record commence?
Oh, I write constantly. It is hard to tell, but I probably started 2 years ago.

Do you normally write a big batch of songs and pick the best, or have little riffs and melodies you piece together when in the studio?
I usually write and record the song in my studio. I always have around 20 songs ready. In fact we could easily record another Voodoo Circle album tomorrow.

How closely do you work with the rest of the band when writing?
Well, I always compose the music, then we decide which songs have the best feel and spirit. Then David visits me and we work together on the vocal melodies. After that we have another vote, we make an A and B list……A goes on the record, B will be redone in the future.

Is most of this work done in your home studio?
The writing process is done in my studio, yes. The rest we do in different studios. It is important to me to have good rooms, especially when recording the drums.

Whereas I felt there was a more nod to Malmsteen on the debut the new album sees a lot more Blackmore, is that a fair assessment?
Absolutely, on the new album I go way way back to my roots….and I enjoy it a lot. I am a melodic player, always have been. I love to play with a lot of feeling and also to let the music breath. In fact, Yngwie and me, we have the same roots….I scalloped my Strat by myself when I was 16, so did Yngwie…..I grew up with Purple, so did he. And, I am very proud to let you know that I just got back from touring with the “Rock meets Classic” show were I played 3 weeks every night with Ian Gillan…..a Best of Purple Set. That was a real highlight.

Your guitar tones also feel a little more vintage as well, was this intentional?
I wanted to have the right sound for those songs, so ..yes…intentional.

We are loving the tones you are coaxing out of your Strats.  It sounds like a very stripped down approach; can you tell us what gear you used this time around?
I used a Marshall 1987X, a Voodoo Amp, my famous GuitarSlinger Double Dealer Booster and Overdrive (www.guitarslingereffects.com) and around 5 different Strats.

Here is the complete list:

Guitars: 2001 Siggi Braun Alex Beyrodt Custom Stratocaster Vintage White, 2010 Siggi Braun Alex Beyrodt Custom Stratocaster Black, 72’s Fender Stratocaster Vintage White, 60’s Fender Stratocaster 3 Tone Sunburst, 60’s Fender Stratocaster Sonic Blue, 57′ Gibson Les Paul Gold Top Reissue, Gibson Flying V Arctic White,

Amplification: Marshall 1987X, Marshall Plexi, Marshall Cabinet (Vintage 30’s), Voodoo Amps V-Rock

Effects: GuitarSlinger Effects Double Dealer & Fireball, WEM Copycat Echo Unit, Jim Dunlop Cry Baby Wah Pedal, Jim Dunlop Uni Vibe, Boss OC3, not to forget: Rübli Rock Alex Beyrodt Custom Picks & Live Line Cables.

How were the amps mic’d up?
SM57 and a room mic

Was there one particular piece of gear that you really connected with this time round?
My 72 Strat is the main guitar on the record.

David Readmans’ vocals are again superb.  He sounds like he has chosen a darker tone this time around with some smokey Coverdale-isms.  How did the pair of you work on the vocals, melodies, lyrics etc?
David came down to my studio at the Canary Islands and we worked for one week on the material, besides hitting the pool and the beach, drinking red wine hah…

Was there any particular vibe you were shooting for this time?
Late 70’s, early 80’s

Do you have any favourite tracks/performances on the new album?
I think I have never recorded a better rhythm guitar then on “Blind Man”. It has a very bluesy, Hendrix-ish vibe and this is a side of me not many people know. I love Power Blues, have you heard Philip Sayce…..I love him!

I know you were looking to get out on the road with the last release, can you see that happening this time round?
Well, we have been touring for around a week after the first release. We are recently looking for a tour to hop on….as 120 other bands too.

Any videos lined up at all to promote the release?
We released a promotion clip with interviews.

What else is in store in 2011 for Voodoo Circle?
Besides interviews, touring and song writing…..not much ha-ha

Are Silent Force over? On hiatus or what? It’s been ages since we’ve heard anything, is there likely to be any activity there down the line?
Well, DC is back in Royal Hunt, I am a constant member of Primal Fear, Voodoo Circle, plus I have my own effect pedal brand www.guitarslingereffects.com, Andre is drummer in Rage…we are all very busy. I am not saying we will never record another album but right now it has no priority….plus….let’s say….there are still some internal issues which have to be resolved first.

Any final messages?
Rock’ Roll isn’t a rocking chair!!!

Official website
http://www.myspace.com/voodoocircleband

VOODOO CIRCLE – BROKEN HEART SYNDROME

Released February 25th 2010 on AFM Records

When they are not delivering Teutonic metal during their day job, Alex Beyrodt and Matt Sinner like to relax with classic 70s rock. Voodoo Circle’s debut was an impressive calling card for everyone who likes Deep Purple inspired hard rock.

No big changes for the follow up. “Absolution Blues” kicks off proceedings in true vintage Whitesnake style. The opening riff to “King Of Your Dreams” owes more than a little to Purple’s “Perfect Strangers” but takes a twist towards Dougie White era Rainbow once it gets going. “Devil’s Daughter” references Purple Mk3 while “Blind Man” takes a more bluesy approach and hints at early Rainbow balladry.I think you get the gist of it. Purple, Rainbow and Whitesnake are the main inspirations here.  I don’t think anyone does this style of music better than Voodoo Circle at this point in time.

The songs stand strong with a solid foundation of skilled musicians. There’s no overplaying, there’s no filler. Beyrodt is a killer guitarist. Tasty, technical and melodic. The whole album is an example of great Strat tones. Yngwie, are you listening?  There’s more of a Coverdale influence in the vocals (“Don’t Take My Heart” for instance) than first time around. You won’t hear me complain… David Readman does an exceptional job.

Highly recommended for all lovers of old school hard rock.

Rating – 93%
Review by Sancho

ELVENKING – RED SILENT TIDES (REVIEW)

Out now on AFM Records

For your weekly dose of sword & sorcery, look no further than Elvenking.

Power metal with light medieval and folky overtones. Yes, there’s the endless rolling bass drum, the guitar fills that come straight from Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge” and the busy arrangements. But there’s also strong melodies and harmonies and a singer who isn’t straining. Some of the songs are a bit convoluted, but overall the flow is pretty good.

A decent melodic metal album if not particularly original.

Rating – 77%
Review by Sancho the Goblin King

 

 

 

SYMPHORCE – UNRESTRICTED (REVIEW)

Out now on AFM Records

Symphorce for the uninitiated are a German progressive power metal band originally assembled in 1998 by singer Andy B. Franck (also of Brainstorm); a vocalist in the Halford/DC Cooper mould, though not always as pitch perfect as that pair.  12 years later the band has just released album number 7 in “Unrestricted” and it must go down as another solid, if unspectacular album.
 
Opener “The Eternal” is not quite the kicker I’d have liked to be greeted with tending to stay more in mid tempo waters. Fortunately “Until It’s Over” gets things moving nicely, the dual vocal trade-off of the chorus is a nice touch. The down tuned riffery of “Sorrow In Our Hearts” paves way for Franck to deliver a lower toned vocal (albeit with some pitch issues).  “Whatever Hurts” is back to the more melodic waters and acquaints itself well being one of the more commercial numbers on the album. “The Waking Hour” is rather faceless European metal that seems the current trend for numerous acts. “Visions” restores the balance though with another strong riff, though the vocal melodies of the verse don’t sit quite right, the chorus does fair better though.  “The Last Decision” follows a similar route, Franck sounds like he might burst an artery on this one given the ferocity of his vocal delivery, and I have to say I quite like it!  “The Mindless” features live news reels from 9/11 giving us a clue as to its lyrical identity, yet Franck has seen fit to approach it from the side of the Taliban’s mindset, rest assured this is not a song of support for the terror organisation but an interesting take nonetheless and features the only guitar solo on the album that is memorable. “World’s Seem To Collide” sees more erratic vocals yet musically is solid enough.   Final track “Do You Wonder” is sadly a rather faceless way to end the album.

Overall this is an album that is enjoyable enough to listen to when its on, yet I can’t see myself returning to it that often as many of the tracks just seem quite bland.  Granted, Franck’s vocals are an acquired taste and not one I can say I will ever really fall for, yet at least they are not bland as is often the case in this genre.  Musically the band are a tight unit, with an abundance of good riffs, yet nothing else.  The guitar duo of Cedric “Cede” Dupont and Markus Pohl do little to show they have their own style or voice, yet as a rhythmic unit interlace well, next time gives us some memorable solos please!  This pretty much sums up the material and album – serviceable yet not awe-inspiring.  One for fans only I suspect.

Rating – 75%

CRYSTAL VIPER – LEGEND (REVIEW)

After their frankly not so brilliant live album, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to reviewing this new offering by Polish band Crystal Viper.

Thankfully, the band fares better in a studio environment. They’re not nearly as ramshackle as the live album would have you believe. This album is an instant flashback to the earliest Noise Records releases. You’ll find yourself thinking of Helloween, Running Wild, Tyran Pace…

Singer Marta manages to hit the right notes most of the time but her voice remains bland and lacking in power. She surprises in the ballad “Sydonia Bork” though with a very good performance. Some of the tunes border on the banal, a case in point would be “Goddess Of Death” with its faux-folk (is that faulk?) guitar harmonies. I know this is a staple in a lot of metal, but it does absolutely nothing for me. Not Marta’s best performance either.

I can only assume most of the guitar solos were handled by Andy Wave, who does a very good job. On the live album one of the guitarists fell way short of the mark, but it isn’t quite as noticeable here.

Production is good overall, the artwork is professional… If you’re into old school metal you might want to check this album out. There’s a couple of serious duffers among the songs, but these are balanced by some decent head banging fare. Check out “A Man Of Stone” for instance.

A pleasant surprise after the dreary live album, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

Rating – 70%
Review by Sancho